Most of you’ve probably heard of ICEHOTEL – right? And the next question that might pop into your mind is: What happens to it during summer? Since it’s made of ice, it naturally melts away and once again becomes a part of the Torne River. But there’s more to the story. Tag along with Maria as she uncovers some of them while visiting the Jukkasjärvi Old Homestead.

I take a deep breath as I enter my bedroom, not cause I’m tired – but because I just had one of those nights where I’ve pretty much talked to everyone and anyone and the silence were quite welcoming. I glance at my watch, 11.30 pm, and I smile. It’s been a great evening. Now I’ll just try to let you in on the fun (which I know isn’t going do it justice) so that maybe next year you’ll come and join me at Nausta Festival at the Old Homestead. And Nausta – that’s a local beer, which may or may not has made people chattier during the evening. I just know that Jukkasjärvi is a friendly place whenever.

Om nom nom nom. And the view isn't too bad either.

I arrive at the Old Homestead, affectionately called ’Hempy’ by the locals, around 6 pm. Tonight’s band is sound-checking on stage. I find a table on the terrace overlooking the Torne River and order the tonight’s special: barbeque. And a beer. Hey, it’s a beer festival so I’m going with it.

– We have different food themes each Saturday, says Louise Wallin, the Manager at the Old Homestead, and hands me a copy of the menu.

The food is delicious. Straight off the grill, I’m served rosemary infused potatoes, veal and bacon-wrapped chicken, together with a fresh bean salad. It’s juicy and full of smokey flavours.

– It’s been marinated in Nausta Indian Pale Ale for 24 hours, Louise smiles at me.

Trying out different styles of Nausta – a beer from Slagsnäs in Swedish Lapland.

It’s all about the river

As I dig in, a thunderstorm decides to make a dramatic entrance and rain start pouring. Beatrice Karlsson, the ICEHOTEL Press Officer, arrives. A bit wet and out of breath she sits down opposite me.

– Sorry, I’m late. I was about to hop on the bike to meet you, but it rained too hard so I had to wait for a lift.
– Don’t worry about it.

I’ve asked her to meet up with me and talk about ICEHOTEL, Jukkasjärvi and what goes on in summer.

– The summers are kind of a homage to the days when we were known for rafting rather than a hotel made of ice, she says. And still, it’s all connected. It’s the circle of life, centred around the river. In spring we harvest ice from the river for next seasons hotel and, when the hotel melts and returns to the river, we fish, raft, canoe, and so forth, says Beatrice. And it’s a classic! Start with adrenaline pumpin’ rafting and finishing it off with a sauna and toddy.

– At summertime you can get a story tour of the ICEHOTEL site, Beatrice continues. You get to know the story behind the hotel, learn more about the building process and the creative forces behind each and every hotel. You can visit the storage unit where thousands of tonnes of Torne River ice are stored until next winter and if you’re up for it; try your hand at ice sculpting.

Backwood Shindig – the band.

So, the midnight sun, what’s it like?

As more people gather on the terrace, I’m asked if I might share my table with an English couple craving dinner. Amy and Mark from not-far-from-Southampton take a seat and we start chatting about their visit to Swedish Lapland.

– We came here to see the islands in Swedish Lapland, Amy explains. So we flew to Luleå but unfortunately, our timing was off, the boat tours hadn’t started yet. But we had a nice time in Luleå anyway. We visited Gammelstad – which was interesting – strolled around the beach, had some good food. Then we took the train to Kiruna, arriving just in time to be a part of the National Day celebrations here in Jukkasjärvi. And it’s was good, really great fun.

– How did you experience the midnight sun, I ask curiously to get outsiders view on what I’m accustomed to?

– There’s no way telling the time! It’s just daylight all night. You keep checking your watch and still, it was a total surprise when the night ended.

Last photo before leaving, my taxi is waiting outside. But the party goes on.

– You stayed the night in Jukkasjärvi, did you try any of the activities here?

– Yeah, we did the ICEHOTEL tour, which was really great, says Mark. It was like, damn! We should’ve come here in winter instead. Then we went canoeing which was good – and we were given fishing rods! None of us has ever fished before so we had no idea on what to do with them but the guide taught us. Amy laughs. Canoeing was hard work but really rewarding and the fishing rods, well that was hilarious. Although we didn’t catch anything except for some seaweed.

– So, will you return?

– Definitely, probably during winter next time. But we have had great fun being here. The silence, the scenery. England started feeling crowded so this was a good getaway, Mark concludes.

It’s stopped raining. The band gathers on the stage, tunes in their guitars and starts playing. It’s 9 pm and it’s still full daylight. The air is warm and the mosquitoes scarce. Performing is Backwood Shindig, a local country-rock band. They sound great, and combined with relaxed between-songs-chit-chat, they quickly charm the audience.

I think to myself that the name suits the occasion, a backwood shindig.

Thank you and good night!

PS. And either if you visit in summer or winter – make sure you try the Nausta beer made in Slagsnäs, Arjeplog. Equally good cold in a glass or used as flavouring while cooking.

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